According to Wikipedia, reddit is “a social news website where the registered users submit content, which could either be links or a text ‘self’ post.”1 Since I am aware of the severely addictive consequences of being a member [and have enough sites I already visit, thank you very much], I mostly browse reddit through a site called imgur.23
With that in mind [assuming you read the footnotes], there are times when I come across an image that lacks context, where even the caption [the title of the original thread] reveals little. Yesterday was not one of these times.
The image on the right was accompanied by the caption “Stop the butt hurt. That costume is hilarious, regardless of your culture.” Clicking on the image should bring you to the original thread where it was posted.
Just to be clear, Urban Dictionary defines “butt hurt” as: “[someone] who doesnt know how to take a joke, and they take the joke like they just took it to the ass.”
The reactions of redditors to this was unsurprising [to me, at least]. Members were, for the most part, unsympathetic to the ad, and more than a few took the opportunity to mock it in the thread, leading to images like this, and this. Countless more variations were spawned, fictional characters unhappily holding up Halloween costumes depicting them.
The thread contained waves upon waves of people lashing out against political correctness. Many made sure to point out that the costume was very funny, and that those offended were being overly sensitive.
One user, lindseycat, asked what the difference between this and dirndl (German Oktoberfest dress) is. Would wearing the latter be offensive, since, in a way, it acts as a cultural stereotype? No. It wouldn’t. There are distinct differences. The most obvious of which is the caricaturization present in the costume, the enormous moustache, the donkey, etc.
The ad campaign was started by young people at Ohio University, members of the student organization STARS [Students Teaching About Racism in Society]. Through conducting its own report on the campaign, CNN revealed that the comments on reddit mirror opinions many others hold, the costumes are simply funny, and at most ironic. Jelani Cobb, professor of Africana studies at Rutgers University, told the news network, “”I think it’s almost impossible to be ironic while being racist, so irony is lost.”4
While I admit that some of the variations on the ad are actually pretty funny [this one in particular], the issue remains a serious one. Someone should not be considered overly sensitive [or “butt hurt”] for being offended by a racial caricature. Nor should these costumes continue to be produced, sold, and used.
White people may not be offended if an Asian or black person dresses up as one of them. Their not being offended doesn’t validate their decision to do the same in return. As far as the reddit thread goes, it saddens me that the original poster probably feels exactly like this.
1. That’s at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reddit, in case you were wondering.
2. It’s an image hosting site where the vast majority of the pictures posted to reddit can be seen.
3. According to the FAQ, the site is pronounced “image-er.” I respectfully disagree.
4. CNN’s coverage here: http://www.cnn.com/2011/10/26/living/halloween-ethnic-costumes
I’m right on track with your line of thinking on this. Unfortunately, I was about to say I’d be offended by a person of another race wore a caricature costume of a white person, only to picture a Japanese person dressing up as white trash (wangsta specifically). I would applaud such a costume only because I think white people trying to be rapper-cool are immense self-mockeries in the first place.
Though I’m not sure how I feel about that, anyway.
There is a danger in reading commentary on any web site. It can skew an otherwise positive experience. It’s sad that a thoughtful initiative to combat racism spawns reactions like that, but not surprising.
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